A three parent family in NY recently appeared in New York County Family Court. The outcome shows movement toward acknowledgment and acceptance of modern families.
A three parent family in NY was granted the rights of custody and visitation on April 10, 2018 by family court Judge Carol Goldstein. The issue before the court was whether the husband of the biological father of the child had an equal right to sue for custody and visitation as did the biological father and mother.
Over brunch in 2016, Raymond T. and David S., a married couple, agreed to have a child and co-parent with Samantha G., a friend of the married couple. They agreed that the child would be raised in a “tri-parent arrangement.” While the parties never executed a written agreement, they did engage an attorney to assist them in drafting one. They agreed that the mother would continue to live in New York City and the married couple would continue to live in Jersey City, NJ, but would consider themselves a “family” for the purposes of raising their child, named Matthew Z. S.-G.
The parties proceeded to act like a three parent family in NY. They made joint announcements on social media of the pregnancy. The male couple attended childbirth classes with the birth mother and they created a joint savings account for the child, to which the non-biologically related father contributed 50%.
It was only after Matthew was born and a DNA test was administered did they find David to be the biological father. Both fathers had contributed sperm over a period of eight days, each man alternating every other day. They referred to one another as “Momma,” “Daddy” and “Papai,” which is Portuguese for father.
This case began when David and Raymond filed a joint petition for “legal custody and shared parenting time.” Samantha filed a cross petition seeking sole legal custody, but allowing the fathers “reasonable visitation.” The issue in the case is whether Raymond, the non-genetically related father has standing to sue for custody and visitation. New York law states that the husband of a woman who gives birth is presumed to be the father of a child born into that marriage. The unanswered question is whether the husband of a man who donates sperm to conceive a child with a woman that he is not married to has the legal authority to seek custody and visitation. The court answered yes.
What the court did not address, and what is potentially the more monumental question, is whether Raymond as the non-genetically related parent is a legal parent under NY law. This issue touches the heart of this three parent family in NY. The Judge did ask the parties to prepare memoranda of law asking the question of whether legal parentage exists between Matthew and Raymond. While the mother consented to custody and visitation, she opposed Raymond’s legal status as a parent and asked the court to make that distinction.
Legal parentage would bestow much more than the ability to eek custody and visitation. It would create intestate, or estate, related rights between the father and child. There would be no question as to whether the child would qualify for the parent’s health insurance or other employment related benefits that flow from a parent to a legal child.
While this decision regarding a three parent family in NY is significant, it does leave unanswered questions. Perhaps after the issue has been briefed to the court, we will know more about how the law treats a three parent family in NY.
If you are thinking about creating your own three parent family in NY, or any other state, please contact Anthony at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com for more information.
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